Is your lawn mower pull cord hard to pull?

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Written By Janine Clarke

I am Janine Clarke AKA Equipment Girl, a nerdy girl with an unhealthy knowledge about power tools and gardening! You can contact me here.

Like everything mechanical, modern labour-saving devices are brilliant – until they stop working.

Few things are as irritating and inconvenient as a gadget that refuses to work, especially when you can’t figure out the problem! In this particular instance, we’re talking about the lawnmower. And, more specifically, a lawnmower pull cord that’s hard to pull.

It’s a safe bet that you’re reading this because the very same thing has happened to you and you’re looking for answers. If so, you may find the following troubleshooting tips helpful, as we go through all the possible causes and offer some solutions.

The Basics: How Does It Work?

It’s essential to understand how the machine and pull cord mechanism work in order to know what problems you might encounter, and how to fix them.

What happens when you pull The cord pull?

The cord pull (also called a pull string, pull start, pull rope or starter rope!) spins a hub that’s directly connected to the crankshaft. When this starts to turn it fires up an electromagnet which kicks the spark plug into action. At the same time, the carburettor pumps fuel into the combustion chamber where it is ignited by the spark plug to initiate a compression stroke.

Once enough fuel has been gathered, the engine fires up, the blades start to spin and the lawn mower is ready to roll.

The pull cord is attached to a recoil spring that automatically winds it back into place. There should never be any slack in a pull cord. If you notice that it’s loose and doesn’t rewind into the housing, then there’s a problem!

If any part of this process is hampered by a part that’s broken or missing, then this could affect the starter rope and prevent you from starting the lawn mower.

Just in case you have broken yours here is a replacement

First Steps Before Investigating

The very first thing to do is to disconnect the spark plug wire, or, better still, remove the spark plug completely. This ensures that there’s no risk of the machine firing up accidentally while you are working on it.

Ensure that you have plenty of space around you and that there’s enough light to work by. Also, make sure there are no naked flames and that nobody is smoking anywhere near the machine.

Problem #1: Lawnmower Blade Obstruction

Once you’ve made the lawn mower safe, tip it on one side and check the blades for any debris lodged there. If something has become jammed in the blades or blade shaft, this could make it more difficult to pull the cord.

Using heavy-duty safety gloves, remove any obstructive material that you find there and try starting the machine. To avoid the problem in future, always clean down your lawn mower and check the blades after every cutting session!

Problem #2: The Flywheel Brake Is On

The flywheel brake is designed to slow the lawn mower blades down quickly. It’s usually linked to the dead man’s handle, a safety mechanism that stops the blades from spinning if you let go of the handle.

Before starting your mower, make sure that it is disengaged.

If you are unable to do this, it may be that the part is jammed or broken. This is a pretty technical and intricate problem to fix, so it may be better to ask a specialist.

Problem #3: The Recoil Starter

After several years of use, this part can become worn and stop working correctly. This will make it difficult to pull the starter rope and you’ll notice that there’s some slack. It can also become obstructed by dirt and gunk that has entered the housing.

Use a screwdriver to undo the blower housing and place the screws in a plastic tub for safekeeping. Remove the housing and check for any debris or obstruction. Remove any obvious stuff that shouldn’t be there, and try pulling the cord to see if it is freed up.

If it’s still not working, it may be that the recoil spring is damaged. You can fix this yourself, but in many cases, it’s easier to buy a new recoil starter. You will need to find the right one for your model but they are not expensive like the one below for a honda.

Problem #4 Tangled Pull Cord

While the recoil housing is removed, check your lawnmower’s cord for any tangles. It should be a fairly simple job to remove this and straighten it out, using needle nose pliers. However, if it is frayed it’s best to replace it.

Problem #5: Old Or Dirty Spark Plug

Spark plugs wear out after a while, so they need replacing. I have already covered “how often do spark need to be replaced in lawn mowers“. They can also become dirty and this can cause them to disconnect from the wire. While not directly connected with the pull cord problem, it could still be a factor and it’s worth checking.

Remove and clean the spark plug with a cloth, then try starting the mower again. If the spark plug is corroded or damaged, replace it and try the process again.

Make sure it is not too tight, as it may stop it from working properly.

Problem #6: Bent Crankshaft

This problem means you need to use more effort to start the mower, as the shaft will catch on the inside of the lawn mower.

You’ll usually know that this is the case because it will make a strange sound and may well produce vibrations through the handle.

The only way to fix this is by replacing the damaged shaft.

Problem #7: Hydro-Locking

This occurs when oil gets into parts of the engine where it doesn’t belong! This jams the cylinder and makes it difficult to shift, so pulling on the cord won’t start the mower.

The main cause is when you tip the lawn mower over and the air filter filter is pointed downwards.

To fix this, remove the spark plug and place a dry cloth over the hole. Pull the starter rope several times and watch for any oil being sprayed out of the hole. That’s what the cloth is for!

Keep doing this until no oil comes out, then insert the spark plug and try starting the mower.

You may find that it kicks out white smoke for a while and misfire once or twice as it burns off any remaining oil. After this, it should run as normal.

Problem #8: Lack Of Physical Strength

If there’s nothing obviously wrong with your lawn mower, it may be that you are simply unable to pull the starter rope hard enough. This isn’t a criticism: some machines are easier to start than others, and some individuals of senior years or who have a condition affecting their strength may struggle with this procedure.

One answer is to replace the pull cord handle with one specially designed to make the action easier. These are usually ball-shaped as this makes the movement more energy efficient.

You can also purchase gadgets that start the lawn mower for you. There was a guy from Ireland who had injured himself and was unable to pull the cord of his machines without pain so he invented the “Pullstarter” but im not sure if he still has any for sale but a great idea!

Final Thoughts

We hope these troubleshooting tips are helpful and that you are able to get mowing again as soon as possible! One of the best ways to avoid future problems with your mower is through regular maintenance.

They are great machines, but they do need a lot of care to keep them working well. Once you’ve been through the list here to fix the problem, it’s a good idea to flush out the fuel system and check the air filter, as these are common problem areas.

And remember to clean off any grass and mud that’s stuck to the blades and casing before you store your mower.

As they say, if you look after your tools, they’ll look after you.